Thursday, June 11, 2015

Calories: Bulking and Cutting (Part II- Macronutrients)

In part I of this post, I talked about where to start in terms of a calorie range for bulking and cutting. Here in part II, I will discuss macronutrients, their percentages, and why they can be even more important than counting overall calories.

For simplicity, let us first understand macronutrients. Macronutrients (or macros, for short) are the major nutrients your body uses. These are: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Micronutrients are your vitamins and minerals.

Let me first give you a perfect example of why having a proper macro split can be more important than just counting calories: Lets say a woman (we'll call her Jane) who is looking to achieve fat loss exercises regularly (is very active), but has a slow metabolism (puts on fat easily). Jane actually found an ideal calorie range that would work for her body, but it isn't working. Lets say she is tracking her food, and I take a look at her numbers and see what her macro split is. After review, I see that she is eating 50% carbs, 30% fat, and 20% protein.

Right away I have spotted the problem. Even though Jane is active, she has a slow metabolism and easily puts on fat. Well if 50% of her calories are coming from carbs, and 30% are coming from fat, Jane is not going to be losing any fat anytime soon. She will also most likely not add any new lean muscle and will possibly burn a decent amount of her current muscle, because her protein intake is too low. I would immediately tell Jane that she should probably try a 40/40/20 split (carbs/protein/fat) to start with, and adjust accordingly from there (she may need to drop the carbs a bit more).

But a 40/40/20 split is not going to work for everyone, because EVERY body functions differently. Lets take myself for example. I am an ectomorph (or what is known as a classic "hardgainer"). This means that I naturally carry little muscle, but also little fat. I can eat pretty much anything without having to worry about putting fat on, but I have to work extremely hard to keep (and add) new muscle. All of that being said, coupled with my lightning speed metabolism, and I am better served with a 50/30/20 split (carbs/protein/fat).

This is why it is so important to look at WHAT you are eating, not just how much! It is also important to clearly define your goal(s) so you can adjust your nutrition as needed. Now lets do just a little bit of math to understand how to calculate your macros:

Carbs- 4 calories per gram
Protein- 4 calories per gram
Fat- about 9 calories per gram

Lets say you are looking to cut, are eating 1800 calories a day, and have a macro split of 40/40/20 (carbs/protein/fat). This means you need 40% of your total calories to come from carbs, 40% to come from protein, and 20% to come from fat. So...

Carbs- 40% of 1800 calories = 720 calories. Since carbs have 4 calories per gram, you are looking at
180 grams of carbs per day.
Protein- since your protein is also 40%, and protein also contains 4 calories per gram, your protein intake will also be 180 grams per day.
Fat- 20% of 1800 calories = 360 calories. Since fat has 9 calories per gram, you are looking at
40 grams of fat per day.

Hopefully all of these numbers help you learn how to calculate your macros, and why it is important. Remember, if you focus on hitting your daily macro goals, you will also hit your total daily calorie goal! Train hard, eat smart!

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